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  • Feed Your Need for Mead

    by Malia Paasch for HRGrowler

    Mead, one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in the world, has been mentioned in mythology and folklore, with mortals and gods enjoying its benefits. Some even speculate the beverage, also known as “honeywine,” is responsible for the term “honeymoon.”

    This dates back to when civilizations, such as the Babylonians, used lunar calendars. The bride’s father was expected to give a dowry to the couple that included enough mead to last an entire month. Because, of course, this magic elixir was not only an aphrodisiac, it promoted fertility. And if it was good enough – pure enough – a son would arrive nine short months later.

    Mead is still somewhat difficult to find, despite its status as the fastest growing segment of the American alcohol industry, according to the American Mead Maker Association.

    Most of the well-known meaderies are overseas, such as Dansk Mjod in Denmark and the Makana Meadery in South Africa. But lucky for us, Virginia has a few to boast about; many of them aren’t far away!

    Mead from Melo Lion Meadery in Yorktown and Black Heath Meadery in Richmond can be found locally, and mead from Silver Hand Meadery in Williamsburg is available on its website.

    Broken down, mead is simply honey, water, and yeast; many of its final flavors come from specific pollen. Die Hochland Imker, a meadery in Austria, places its hives in a lime grove, which produces mead that tastes like limes without ever adding a drop of juice. Other meaderies add fruits and juices. B. Nektar Meadery’s Milton’s Madness (reviewed next page) has lime juice and zest added to create a margarita flavor.

    Traditionally, mead has a bit of a syrupy mouthfeel and leaves a lingering honey sweetness on the
    palate. But the creativity of the mead makers has brought us many interpretations.

    And of course, just like beer, mead comes in a variety of different styles, including Melomel (made with fruit), Braggot (made with malted grain), Cyser (made with apples or apple juice) and Metheglin (made with added spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves).

     

    Mead is a great addition to any meal as an aperitif or a digestif. It can be chilled or sipped at room temperature. And in cooler weather, it is nice to heat up and consume warm. Cheers!

  • Don't Sour on Sours Yet

    by Malia Paasch

    This week I’m hosting my fifth annual 43 Hours of Sours at The Birch, a craft beer bar in Norfolk’s Chelsea neighborhood. And while sours continue to grow in popularity, I still field a fair amount of questions about them.

    So here is a little tutorial. The term “sour” applies to beers that taste acidic, vinegary, funky, or tart. There are a variety of techniques to make one, but the foundation is based on the yeast or bacteria used. Bacteria metabolize sugar in the wort and produce lactic acid. Brewers will use a combination of bacteria to obtain the desired acidity, and in most cases end up blending different batches together.

    The second aspect to making a sour involves the manner in which bacteria are added to the beer, and how it is aged. Historically, German brewers would throw malt to get a lacto sour going because the husks are loaded with lactobacicullus.

    The kettle sour method and barrel aging are other methods of the process. Sours can take on the flavors from the liquids that were previously in the barrels. Plus the barrels also hold microflora and microorganisms, which will also affect taste.

    Making sours is not easy and in some cases takes years. But they can be worth every second of the wait. I’m convinced there is a sour for everyone, but the search may take time.

    First, identify you flavor profile. If you are more of a wine drinker, there is a good chance you will prefer wine barrel-aged sours. But if you like Sweet Tarts or Sour Patch Kids, you might want to steer toward a Berliner Weiss or a dry-hopped sour IPA.

    Here are some classic sour styles and their tasting notes for you to use as a guide:

    •Flemish Reds: smooth, slightly sweet, sometimes fruity
    • Goses: salty, tart, light
    • Gueuze: bitter greens, vinaigrette
    • Berliner Weiss: refreshing, lemony, crisp
    • Wild Ales: dry, funky, can be fruity or tart
    • Basque Ciders: tart, vinegary, olive

    At our 43 Hours of Sour festival, we create tasting notes for every beer on draft and customers can opt to get a 4.5 oz taster pour instead of committing to a whole glass. Some other great places to find sours in the area are Esoteric, The Lynnhaven Pub, Dog Street Pub, and The Bier Garden, or Total Wine, Grape and Gourmet, Bottlebox, and Exception(Ale) for take home.